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ZingPath: Nuclear Physics

Historical Development of the Weak and Strong Nuclear Forces

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Lesson Focus

Historical Development of the Weak and Strong Nuclear Forces

Physics

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You will explore the world of nuclear physics. Learn about isotopes, half-life, and radioactive decay. Use your knowledge to help the crew of a damaged nuclear submarine keep the reactor going.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Explain how protons stay together in the nucleolus.
  • Explain how the strong and weak forces occur in the nucleolus.
  • Explain the differences between the strong and weak forces.

Everything You'll Have Covered

What is a quark?

~ A quark is a particle that has both mass and an electric charge. Quarks, specifically up quarks and down quarks, make up protons and neutrons. Quarks also have a color charge. Protons are made up of two up quarks and one down quark, and neutrons are made up of two down quarks and one up quark.

Explain how a strong nuclear force causes protons to attract each other.

~ The protons within the nucleus have a positive electric charge and, therefore, repel each other with a strong electrostatic force. However, the quarks that make up a proton also have mass, an electric charge, and a color charge. The interactions between the color charges of quarks cause protons to attract each other with a strong nuclear force. The strong force results from an exchange of gluons, which are elementary particles that also have a color charge.

What is beta decay?

~ Beta decay is the weak interaction that takes place within the nucleus of an unstable atom. Beta decay turns protons into neutrons or neutrons into protons. Beta decay reactions also produce other particles, such as positrons, electron antineutrinos, and electron neutrinos.

What is the difference between the strong and weak forces within the nucleus of an atom?

~ The strong nuclear force is responsible for creating the attraction between protons within the nucleus of an atom. The strong nuclear force must overcome the electrostatic force that causes protons to repel each other. The weak force is an interaction that turns protons into neutrons or neutrons in protons in unstable atoms through beta decay. Beta decay is called the weak interaction, because in comparison to the strong nuclear force, it is very small.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 2 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Students should be able to define beta decay, Coulomb’s force, and elementary particle.
Course Physics
Type of Tutorial Animation
Key Vocabulary beta decay, Coulomb’s force, elementary particle